The mixed doubles matchup of Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova against Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters has become something to expect on the PPA Tour.
The best two pairings in pickleball have regularly faced off and provided some excellent entertainment.
More of that was expected this week in Ohio at the PPA’s Baird Wealth Management Open. Except something happened along the way to alter the expected result.
Fourth-seeded Jay Devilliers and Jesse Irvine took down the top-seeded team of Wright and Kovalova in three games, 11-4, 5-11, 11-4.
“They are a tough team,” Devilliers said. “They are the No. 1-seed. We had a good strategy. The goal was just to do our job. I’m excited with the good win today.”
And that strategy of just doing “their job”? What’s that about? For Irvine, it was pretty simple, and it’s also great advice for any aspiring pickleball player, too. Don’t make it too confusing out there.
“Just keep it as un-attackable as possible,” Irvine said of how she wanted to play. “I like to use the dinking to my advantage and do that as much as I can. When I have my opportunities to attack, I will. Just keep doing that and try to set [Devilliers] up.”
It worked, and the duo is into Championship Sunday in Cincinnati where they will take on Waters and Johns.
Waters and Johns did their part, running through the bracket and winning their matches without losing a game, including a win over the No. 3-seeded team of Callie Smith and AJ Koller, 12-10, 11-9 in a match where they fell behind early in both games.
“We sat for a little, so we came out cold,” Waters said. “They caught us off-guard. Me and Ben get off to slow starts, so I wasn’t too worried. I knew we could come back.”
While Johns and Waters have had most of the success against Kovalova and Wright, it was Wright and Kovalova who have climbed into the No. 1-seeded position. But at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, the top-seeded duo didn’t medal.
After heading to the back draw, the 11th-seeded team of Yana Grechkina and Thomas Wilson, who lost their first match of the day, upset Wright and Kovalova, 15-10.
Wilson and Grechkina finished the day with a win over Koller and Smith, 11-9, 11-9, earning the bronze. Grechkina and Wilson had been knocked out of the winner’s bracket by Smith and Koller earlier on Friday, so they were hungry to exact some revenge. Smith/Koller, after playing three matches in succession, were not able to find the energy they needed to make a stand.
Wilson and Grechkina won four matches in the back draw to earn their medal.
“This is my first PPA medal, and honestly, I give huge thanks to Thomas,” Grechkina said. “A great player and it’s a blast to play with someone who is supportive and always there for you. We’re having fun and here we are.”